Scrabble Chat: Cesar Del Solar

ScrabbleTVLive’s very own Cesar Del Solar took home the victory at the California Open in San Francisco last weekend! We talked a little bit with him about what it was like to win his first big tournament, and he gave us a play by play of his final game against Rafi Stern.

 


Starring Cesar Del Solar, creator of Aerolith.org
Directed & Edited by Emily Dowgialo

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North American Scrabble Champion Does A Reddit AMA

North American Scrabble champion Matthew Tunnicliffe did an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit today. A Redditor asked Tunnicliffe what his favorite weird word he has learned from Scrabble, and Tunnicliffe revealed that he could not answer that question because it was actually his Reddit password. We’ll see if he gets hacked.

Check it out here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/3voegl/iama_north_american_scrabble_champion_ama_about/

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Matthew Tunnicliffe

-Emily Dowgialo

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Oakland Nerd Nite: War Of The Words

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Nerd Nite East Bay: 20K Leagues, Scrabble & Human Senses

I’m presenting at Oakland Nerd Nite tomorrow night! One of my buddies from college, Rick Karnesky, organizes the event, and asked if I’d be interested in speaking about Scrabble (apparently Scrabble is acceptably nerdy). Come nerd out and drink some brewskis with us! This event is 21 and up.

When: Monday, November 30th, 2015 @ 7-10:30PM (lectures begin at 8)
Where: Club 21 – 2111 Franklin St, Oakland, CA
Cost: $10

Check out the Nerd Nite website for information: http://eastbay.nerdnite.com/

-Cesar Del Solar

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 Want to write an article or blog post for Scrabble TV Live? Email us at scrabble.live@gmail.com.

The State of the Game

Haven’t seen you guys in a while, but lots going on!

The California Open was just announced and it’s taking place at the Parc 55 hotel in downtown San Francisco, on Dec 18-20. I’m also directing the next Berkeley tournament on November 1st – contact me (Cesar Del Solar) via Facebook or by emailing Scrabble TV Live if you want to play! I also just won the last San Jose tournament this past weekend, making it two in a row. Had to get very lucky and beat Jesse by almost 200 points to win the tournament; second place was only 30 spread points behind.

The World Scrabble Championship is taking place next week in Perth, Australia, starting on November 4th. A few of our good friends will be playing, and we’ll keep you up to date on the progress of the tournament.

Scrabble TV Live will also be at the New Orleans Crescent City Cup on MLK Weekend next year – January 16-18. Photos, reports, and more coming soon.

Finally, I will be giving a talk on Scrabble at Nerd Nite East Bay on Monday 11/30/2015 in downtown Oakland. Doors open at 7pm then lectures begin at 8. I’ll be the second speaker. This is a fun event in which three lecturers talk on a variety of nerdy topics, interspersed with drinks and food. A friend of mine from college is the organizer, and he asked me to talk about Scrabble. Anyone in the area is welcome to come check it out! It costs $10 and is 21+.

-Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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Congratulations to Leesa Berahovich!

Berkeley Scrabble player Leesa Berahovich took the $25K Wordie Games championship! Massive congrats to her. The finals were exciting; you can take a look at the broadcast here:

On the way back from Reno Nationals last month, Leesa and I played a few practice games of Wordie while Emily drove. I think Leesa won all of them!

Although our good buddy and 2014 Scrabble Nationals champion Conrad was eliminated prior to the final round, he did a great job, playing a pretty flawless semifinal game, which you can also see at the link above. This version of Words With Friends is extremely volatile and anyone could have won it, so we’re glad it went to one of our own 😉

Made it to Best Of the Bay!

I wrote last week about trying to qualify for this year’s Best Of the Bay (“B.O.B”) tournament and not having many more opportunities to do so. To qualify to play in B.O.B you have to win at least one tournament in the Bay Area. Luckily, I was able to qualify at this past weekend’s San Jose tournament. Since most of the tournaments in the Bay Area are only 6 games long, it takes a lot of focus and some luck to be the one chosen by the Tile Gods on that given day.

After losing the first game to Chris Patrick Morgan, mainly by chickening out on my opening-rack bingo of HUMPIER, my mental state declined and I did not feel like I had a chance to win. However, since I had no choice but to keep playing, I decided to make the best of it. I won the next 2 games, and then faced off against Jesse Day, one of the top players in the country and recent 2nd place at Nationals. This game was actually pretty well played by both of us, with few mistakes, and I felt fortunate to come ahead with a victory at the end:

Game 4, vs Jesse Day: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21931

The final two games were against the two lowest seeds of the tournament, but they both put up a hell of a fight:

Game 5, vs Aditya Kini: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21930

Game 6, vs Jeannie Wilson: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21929

For dinner, a group of us went to Smoking Pig BBQ Company, a super-delicious restaurant a short walk away from tournament host John Karris’ home, and celebrated with a beer and an abundance of Texas-style barbecue food.

Look at those ribs

Look at those ribs

As you can see, the Bay Area is super strong, and I hope my good luck continues into the Best Of the Bay tournament.

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Best Of the Bay

Every year, we in the Bay Area have a tournament called Best Of the Bay, or BOB for short. It was temporarily renamed to the LES (Let’s Eat Stuff), in honor of late Scrabble legend Lester Schonbrun, last year. It consists of eight games against other top players and is punctuated by delicious food cooked by Scrabble players and chefs extraordinaire Chris Patrick Morgan and KC Frodyma (or XKCP as we like to call them).

One of many delicious pizzas baked by team XKCP

One of many delicious pizzas baked by team XKCP

It is one of the only tournaments around that requires qualifying, and the criteria is simple – if you win a division 1 tournament in the Bay Area sometime in the year, you’re in! I’ve qualified the past three years and it’s been a great time – I even won the 2014 edition – however, I’ve already tried 9 times this year and been unable to qualify yet.

Sensing that there’s not many tournaments left in the year, I went to a smaller tournament in Mill Valley last week, run by a rival organization to NASPA called WGPO. There were still some experts in attendance, but I was by far the highest seeded – and still lost two of the six games, knocking me out of 1st.

Play my game against Mary Stevens here, who definitely deserved to beat me: http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21734

My next try will be this coming Sunday in San Jose. The tournaments being just six games long makes this difficult, as there is a lot of variance, but I would think I should have won at least one already – I usually win 2-3 tourneys per year, but this year I have 3 second places and can’t quite win one yet. I gotta qualify soon!

Our post-tourney crowd last month at Jupiter in Berkeley. Some of these Scrabble players were just passing through town and visiting, including Gab Wong from Hong Kong!

Our post-tourney crowd last month at Jupiter in Berkeley. Some of these Scrabble players were just passing through town and visiting, including Gab Wong from Hong Kong!

Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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North American Scrabble Championship: Cesar’s Report On Days 3, 4, 5

Day 3.

At the end of day 2 I was 7-7 and very barely in contention, with a low cumulative point spread. To make the brackets I would need to win all 7 games the next day, or maybe even 6, but they would have to be by a huge amount on average. I calculated the chances of doing so; assuming I’m about 55% to win each game (reasonable since I was a high seed), I have about a 1.5% chance of making it to the brackets. So I was about as good as done, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try as hard as possible.

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Unfortunately my dream was dead after just the second game, in which I played Steve Bush, a nice guy from Kentucky. He opened with a bingo, and a few turns later plays another one, FROWNIER through an O, to go up about 80 points. I held him on this play for a long time, trying to remember whether this was a word or not, but the problem is that for some reason it looked very familiar, and I thought there was a very good chance it was good. If I had thought harder, I would have realized that I’ve never seen the word FROWNY before, and I’ve studied the high point 6s… so I let it go, and he bingoed 3 more times and killed me.

At the end of the game I checked and sure enough it was phony. Turns out I was thinking of the word BROWNIER. Oops. Too bad I’m not Nigel Richards. In prior years I would have been upset and probably played badly the rest of the day, but I took it very stoically, got over it super quickly, and moved on to the rest of the day. I think part of my success in this tournament was due to my successfully conquering the ability to quickly move on from mistakes. The difficulty of long tournaments is a culmination of many factors. Playing against incredibly skilled opponents, luck, lack of sleep, and increasing frustration contribute to a potentially lethal potion that in past years chipped away at my focus. This year I let things slide and kept my emotions in check.

I won 3 out of 4 games in the morning, and had a great lunch at a super good tortas place (if you ever happen to be in Reno you must go – it’s across the street from the Reno Ballroom). In the afternoon, I won 2 out of 3, for a total of 5 games for the day, a good average. My sole loss came to Joel Sherman, and I made a very serious word mistake, playing a phony bingo when I had a 50-point play that also blocked the board and put me up by a bunch. Joel, being a former National and World champion, challenged very quickly and controlled the board afterwards. When I finally bingoed, he was able to triple-triple through it and I was done after this.

I had avoided looking at how close I came, but it turns out that if I had just won one more game by enough, that I could possibly have made it to the Elite Eight. If only one more of those games had gone my way, especially early on when I was facing lower seeds! Why did I have to start 1-4? Still, I wasn’t too upset and I filled out my bracket that night, guessing that my good friend Jesse Day would win it all over Thai wonder Panupol Sujjayakorn.

My stomach hurt a bit, mostly from nerves, so I didn’t have dinner until late, and it was just half of a deli sandwich. We had a NASPA town hall meeting that night and I attended; most of the questions ranged around the controversy of the bracket format. More to come on that in a later post.

Day 4.

While the Elite Eight in each division started their bracket playoff games, the rest of us were forced to play another 10 meaningless games. Just kidding, but that’s what some people thought! In order to give us something to play for, there were prizes for 9th through 12th place, and since I had missed the bracket by a game and change I was playing all the other players who had also just barely missed. As a result, I had what has possibly been my toughest Nationals day to date, in terms of my matchups – and it was a great challenge. Scrabble players take the game very seriously, and certainly no one seemed discouraged by not having made the playoffs; we were all playing super tough.

In order, my lineup was: Trey Wright, Ian Weinstein, Chris Cree, Charles Reinke, Joey Krafchick, Rafi Stern, and Doug Brockmeier. That field includes a former Nationals champion, the number 2 seed, and several other top-notch players who have all won far more events than I have. I was lucky to finish day 4 with a 4-3 record, losing to Ian, Chris, and Rafi. More annotations on these games will come soon.

Cesar Del Solar (me!) playing on day 4 against Joey Krafchick, a top player from Texas

At the end of the day, since it was our last Reno dinner together, I went with a group of 6 good friends to an Italian restaurant called Johnny’s Ristorante. I had a classic spaghetti and meatballs, recommended by my friend, food aficionado, and local Reno resident Kenji Matsumoto. It was a wonderful yet bittersweet last night in Reno. It’s the one time of the year so many of my friends are all together in one place, and it’s great seeing everyone, but it’s always a little sad when it’s over.

Dessert.

Dessert

The final day.

My field on day 4 was so tough that even though I tried my best I could not win more than 4 games.. which meant that I would have to win all 3 games on the final day to cash. Again, this was possible, but unlikely, yet I gave it my best.

The day 5 field consisted of Jason Li, Charles Reinke (for the second time), and Conrad Bassett-Bouchard. That is the same Jason and Conrad who played for the title in last year’s Nationals in Buffalo, and Charles, an excellent player who was looking for revenge for the previous day’s loss.

Charles got me this time after I tried a ridiculous phony of PALEWEED*. Why would I try that? No idea, but it seemed a little familiar. In North American rules Scrabble, challenging a valid word costs a player their turn, and maybe I felt bravado from winning our previous match on a challenge, that I thought I could get away with it. Unfortunately for me, Charles smacked it off the board pretty quickly and then got his own massive bingo a few turns later, which I had to challenge out of desperation. So a completely deserved loss and good play by him.

I did beat both Conrad and Jason, though, getting admittedly pretty lucky in both games – although at a high level, a lot of games do come down to luck. It is playing consistently well over the 31 rounds that cause good players to rise to the top, and I came up short again by one game and didn’t cash.

I was still very happy with my final result; 16th is the best I’ve ever done at a Nationals and I feel like next year I can actually cash. I am planning on studying all the words now. During this whole tournament I was very focused and I think if I can channel this focus again but with good word knowledge, I can finally prevail.

At the end of our three games, we took a quick break for lunch then headed to the awards ceremony room, where they live-streamed games 4 and 5 of the finals games between Matthew Tunnicliffe and Jesse Day. Matthew ended up prevailing in the very exciting game 5. You can see the videos on Youtube, starting with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU9z6CvM1kI.

It was an amazing tournament and I was so glad to see so many friends again and partake in all sorts of fun activities after-hours. Reno is a pretty cool city and there was always something to do. There was a big car show the final day we were there so I got to wander around a bit at lunch and check out the endless rows of candy-colored roasters.

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Hot August Nights car show on the Reno strip

My next big event will probably be the California Open in San Francisco, sometime in late October. I’m feeling good about my game, and I actually had the highest average score at nationals (437). I just have to keep my head in the game and stay focused.

Until next year.

-Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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North American Scrabble Championship, Day 2 – Cesar’s Report

ATTENTION SCRABBLERS FAR AND WIDE: If you would like to contribute and write for Scrabble TV Live shoot us an email at scrabble.live@gmail.com, or find us at the tournament. Or carrier pigeon. Whatever method of communication that works for you. We’d love for you to participate!

Well, I’m still in the running for the bracket, even though it’s going to be close to a miracle if I make it. I basically need to win all 7 games tomorrow.

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Scrabble went a little better than yesterday. I played decently in my three losses, but still made a few critical mistakes that possibly cost me the games. In this game against Manop, I played a cool 9 (I made YOUNGSTER through YO), but lost:

http://cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=21361

I played two other 9s today – I(SO)THERAL and R(ET)AINERS. Final record for the day was 4-3, which makes me 7-7 overall. If I’m being completely honest, I’m feeling pretty tired. But I’m hopeful. I think I have a shot and am probably good enough to win my games tomorrow but I need to be really lucky. I need a little luck and.. well, maybe just a little luck. But I’ll keep playing to the best of my ability. My average game score this tournament is on the higher side (432), so I’m not playing badly. My opponents just happen to be playing slightly better. I’m trying to not be discouraged. Every missed bingo stings a little more than the last, and I tend to stop caring the more I lose. It can be a slippery slope, one that a lot of players feel during this tournament.

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Although Scrabble isn’t going as well as I wanted it to, I feel thankful to have such a fun group of friends. I went to a delicious Basque restaurant for dinner with 7 great friends, had some tasty drinks and ate way too much food. I’m happy the tournament is in Reno this year because there’s a lot to do. I didn’t find Buffalo, where the 2014 NASC was held, as fun of a location. Next year’s tournament is in Fort Wayne, Indiana so.. we’ll see how that goes.

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Jesse Matthews, John O’Laughlin, Cesar Del Solar

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After I ate enough for two people and felt like I had just doubled my body weight, I went to the musicale. The musicale is an event that showcases Scrabblers’ musical talents. It is an after hours event hosted by NASPA that was held in one of the Silver Legacy ballrooms. Josh Sokol and I performed our rendition of “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis, with me on guitar and him accompanying me on piano doing vocals. It was a fantastic showcase – I didn’t know so many Scrabblers were also so musically talented! We took video.. stay tuned for that.

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My first game tomorrow is against my Bay Area clubmate Norases Vesdapunt (or Saint, his Thai nickname), who has been a player that rose up through the ranks quickly. I’m crossing my fingers. I could really use some luck. And good luck to all my fellow Scrabblers.

-Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org

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